Have you ever wondered why creating a robust workflow management system is vital for your business? While an accurate and distinct workflow makes your business operations more organized and delivers dependable results, an ineffective workflow would only create extended processing time, expensive costs of operation, frustrated employees, and continuous mistakes. Poorly organized workflows produce undesirable results especially when your staff don't comprehend them. Employees could waste time trying to understand the workflow creating a setback that could affect your company’s growth and efficiency.
Now, how can you make your business operations more productive? And how can you exchange expensive paper processes using electronic methods and automatic workflows? This article will expose you with what you should know about workflow management systems and the essential criteria to look for when deciding on a workflow management system to automate your processes.
What is Workflow Management?
Workflow management involves designing and improving the paths for data to complete allotted tasks in a specific time. It involves arranging workflows in the best possible way, identifying redundant tasks, creating an efficient process, and brainstorming areas for improvement.
Essential components of a workflow
A workflow is made up of three practical components:
Steps are a solid framework of tasks in the workflow because they provide transparency on everything that happens at each workflow stage from beginning to end. It can either be manual or automatic based on various stages of the workflow.
Stakeholders are people who are responsible for carrying out specific tasks in the workflow. They are appointed to either each step of the workflow, a group of steps, or the entire workflow of the system. In some cases, the steps are automatic making the stakeholders less active but these individuals come into the workflow when there's difficulty or during specific conditions that require human action.
Conditions are the laws of the workflow. They determine when a step is completed and when the next one begins. Conditions are most suitable for approval-type of workflows where specific steps can be disregarded based on the information provided.
Why is a Workflow Management System needed in your company?
In every generation, change is inevitable but hard to accept. The 21st century is not slacking off either. It gave birth to advanced tech like computers, laptops, and smartphones. Today, employees leverage the power of the cloud to use and store data on any device and rely on their mobile phones for their tasks. Finding a workflow management system should not be hard, since there is significant advancement in terms of technological improvement in this area. However, it is shocking that different businesses ignore the need for a workflow software or BPM tool for their various business operations.
Also, industries need a sound workflow management system to manage the workflows and improve business operations. A closer look at the workflow processes reveal that tasks are often repetitive and interrupted.
Poorly organized tasks arise in piles of files and folders containing receipts, invoices, documents, forms, and leave applications. Even the biggest technology organizations may end up with unorganized documents and unstructured tasks if they fail to put a workflow management system in place.
Benefits of a Workflow Management System
Aside from the order and the structure an efficient workflow management system can bring to your business, other benefits include:
More Insight into Business Processes
Creating your processes in a workflow gives you a clearer view of your business. Even when your business processes are well structured, you need to be sure that they are giving you good results and if the processes are performing at its best. In this way, you are able to take a continuous improvement approach to managing your business or even your department.
Various forms of unnecessary and repetitive tasks happen daily, but once you know your processes, you can easily identify the essential tasks. Identifying and eliminating unimportant activities has a lot of benefits (for instance, it brings more value for your business). So, instead of wasting time on an irrelevant task, your staff will pay attention to what is essential and what adds value to the business.
By mapping out your workflow, everyone knows their tasks, the must-finish activities, who will finish them, and when they must be completed by. When the workflow process is mapped out this way, the supervisors can reduce the time spent on controlling the staff since the work is clearly explained. Therefore, there are less questions since everyone understands what is going on and what is needed to be done.
One of the leading cases that commonly results in conflict within a company is miscommunication between the managers and the employees. Especially when they disagree on a particular issue even when they have the same goals. Once again, workflows are highly impactful since accountability and visibility of processes can help improve communication in a work space.
Features of a Workflow Management System
An intuitive, code-free workflow designer
An excellent workflow management system has an easy and intuitive interface but can perform complicated processes in the background. It can involve using a code-free design that forms the foundation of your workflow management system.
Integration with other cloud apps
Integration is a must have feature for workflow management. It is a significant feature for workflow management because workflows do not function separately from other processes. For instance, documents, sales reports, cash flows, contact details, and calendars should integrate with your workflow tool, your HR software, email, and many more. If your workflow management system is difficult to set up and does not flow smoothly with other tools, it is already outdated and unsustainable for the future growth of your company.
Instigating an argument between the cloud vs. on-premise is synonymous to placing a bet on MySpace making a comeback. A good workflow is not just about having access to your data from any location, but about who is in control and who obeys the rules of compliance, privacy and data protection, and creating partnerships. Your workflow management tools must be in the cloud if you want to make it a valuable asset for your team.
Many workflow tools out there will allow you develop a simple workflow, but if you want to succeed in a new different level of efficiency, opt for tools with strong reporting features. The first time you improve a workflow, you are already on testing ground, and what you thought was working well may take a lot more time than you assumed.
You may realize you need to take a different step or already took too many wrong steps. A solid KPI-based reporting tool in your workforce management system will help you identify where to put your attention and analyze where your bottlenecks are.
Notifications where and when you need them
The good thing about automatic workflows is that you don't need to stress yourself out. Unlike manual processes, the entire step moves from start to finish without any intervention. Notifications can be useful especially for automatic processes. An efficient business workflow management system will send alerts via email or phone alerts to notify you of pending approvals, actions, etc. Users should also be allowed to customize the types of notifications they receive in order to remain as agile as possible.
Role-based access control
There is a balance that needs to be established between transparency and data privacy. In fact, many workflows have vital information that shouldn’t be shared with everyone in the process. Hence, a good workflow management system should allow you customize what each of the users can see. However, making these simple changes shouldn’t break the workflow or affect the ability to access historical requests.
Questions to ask before deciding on the workflow management software you want
1. What are your business requirements for your workflows?
It would be best to have comprehensive workflow solutions for essential processes across the organization. You might also need something less tasking and that allows the team leaders to make decisions independently, so they have certain amount of power over the entire process.
2. What are your non-negotiable features for workflow management?
Most workflow software are the same at the basic stage, however, their different features can help you pay attention to the best options available. Ask vital question like:
Is the workflow builder simple enough for my system administrator to use?
How complex does my reporting need to be?
Is there a specific type of field that I can't work without?
3. How many users will you have in the workflow?
Firstly, ask yourself if the software will be used by the entire company or just a few people. And if you be able to involve external users to be involved the workflow? Also, check with various merchants to see what their limits are for their various user types. This is also a good point to consider in order to estimate software costs and forecast the ROI of your investment.
4. How quickly do you plan to use the software?
If you want a workflow software that can automate a single process, choose one right away. If you want something that will automate a lot of processes in the company by making your workflow more organized, then take your time. Some of the workflow tools usually take sometimes months to create, train, and develop the workflows, and make them work. Other more simpler tools, however, require little or no training and can be used on the first day of purchase. Consider looking for free trial options in order to get an idea of how quickly you can deploy the software within your organization.
5. How much assistance do you need?
The demand for software tools has increased a lot in the past few years, and the internal IT teams cannot be experts in each one. Hence, the vendor you choose to use must provide functional and efficient support. These come in various forms like video guides, comprehensive documentation, and instant chat support. During the trial session, try to interact with the support team to test its efficiency and responsiveness.
Having a sound workflow management system is very important if you wish to remain productive and stay at the top of today’s tech-driven business environment. Hence, it is crucial to make the right decision because this choice will stay with you for a while. Don’t ever settle for anything less than best-in-class. Also, keep the above questions and features in mind as you investigate options.